What Should Children Know about Drugs and When

A few months ago I posted about my daughter's love of medical programmes and my worries about their potential impact on her. As anyone with children knows new quandaries arise all the time.

On Thursday I arrived as usual to pick, my now 6 year old, daughter up from the childminder. The childminder—who is generally a cheerful soul—seemed a bit frosty. I asked if Millie had been behaving and she told me she had been playing with the two three-year-olds at 'airports'. 'Nothing wrong with that I,' thought.

Unfortunately as the story unfolded this game didn't involve flying to places and selling tickets so much as the customs section of the airport. It transpires that with the aid of a few props and imagination my daughter had intercepted one three-year-old with significant quantities of heroin, a Class A drug, as she had informed the childminder. The second toddler was in less trouble having only been found with amphetamines, a class B drug.

According to my daughter both were facing a significant stretch and the first toddler was going to have to go to the hospital to see if she was carrying anything internally!

As one does when your children have embarrassed you I laughed nervously and  mumbled something about her favorite TV programme currently being 'Border Control', which follows customs officers in Australia. I then ushered her out and we went off to swimming. On the way there I suggested to her that in future she might want to catch the toddlers hiding unsafe food items!

She did ask why people get arrested for bringing 'drugs' into a country and from that why people take them. I explained in what i thought was an age appropriate way that sometimes people do things that are bad from them to cope with their problems. I explained that things like drugs made these problems worse but were really hard to stop. She asked a few questions and then switched to something that had happened at school.

It does pose the question of when we talk to our children about some of the realities of life. Whilst we may wish for our children to live in a cocoon of 'motherhood and apple pie' the reality is they are naturally inquisitive and it's probably not possible or wise to do this. 

Children will come to adults with questions and they know when they're being fobbed off. That means they will go to someone else. Based on this I'd rather be my daughter's go to guy for difficult questions... unless they relate to where babies come from, in which case it's my wife, her grandmother or whatever she gleans from playground gossip.

As part of Virtually Free's mission one area we are really keen to be involved in is working with young people to start helping them understand mental health. We believe that just as we gradually educate our kids about crossing the road, keeping safe, sex, drugs, eating properly and exercising we should do the same for their mental health.

We also believe that waiting till they're teenagers is too late. We would be really interested to hear from anyone involved in education about possible linkups in this area.